written by reader Paradise Gained, Paradise Lost, Part One

THE BLIND SQUIRREL DIARIES

By theblindsquirrel, January 21, 2014

[Ed. note: Here is our first article from Jim Skelton, the Blind Squirrel, who is writing about his experiences as a financial advisor. As with all of our contributors, the opinions he expresses are his own, and we haven’t reviewed, approved or screened his ideas.]

Hello and welcome to all you citizens of the Gumshoe Nation! Jim Skelton here, your resident “Blind Squirrel,” coming to you with the inaugural edition of The Blind Squirrel Diaries. I’m excited to be here and be given this opportunity to share with all of you some of the stories, events, and lessons I learned during the course of my 20-year career as a Financial Advisor (herein after “FA”) with four of Wall Street’s largest retail investment firms, as well as other business ventures – and misadventures.

A couple weeks ago, Travis introduced me and I then gave an elaboration of sorts as to who I am and my qualifications. This was posted on the site, so you may have noticed it. If not, and you would like to read it first, you can go here to do so.

Now, on with the show.

This month I’m relating a story to you about my association as an FA with a young man who walked in off the street one day in 1986 to open an account for trading and investment purposes. I happened to be what we then called the “broker of the day,” which meant I got to handle anyone that dropped into the office with questions and asking to see an FA. Maybe they had the intent to open an account, or were just passing time, picking brains and looking for a little company. This was Ft. Lauderdale, a retiree capital of the world, filled with a lot of folks that had nowhere to go and nobody in particular to meet. But they could always find a young and hungry FA somewhere that would sit and swap war stories with them to pass time. Seldom were these drop-ins worth the time they took, but you never know. You just never know …

I got lucky on that day when Kurt (not his real name) stopped by. Kurt was a young man, in his late 20’s, and brimming with confidence and enthusiasm. He was German by birth, a U.S. citizen by choice, and a part-time resident of the Principality of Monaco. What part of the year he wasn’t in Monaco, he was either traveling all over Europe or at his home in Ft. Lauderdale. A real citizen of the world so to speak.

Kurt and I sat and talked awhile. He started by giving me the most impressive, beautiful business card I have ever seen – it’s still around here somewhere. Glossy, heavy stock in full color, a coat of arms emblazoned in the center and his name, the name of what I found out was his newly-formed investment management firm, and the address in Monaco. If he was trying to impress me with it, well, it worked. As did what he had to say during this initial meeting.

What Kurt wanted from me and my firm was simple. He wanted only information and research as he required. His intent was to build the investment advisory company into something grand over time, getting clients from his connections in Monaco, Germany, and the U.S. The account with me would be his model portfolio, composed of his personal funds, for prospects to see in order for them to gain confidence in placing money under discretionary management with his company. He did not want me to provide any sort of recommendations or solicitations at all. Just the data and research reports he required to make his own investment decisions. You must remember that in the 1980’s there was no such thing as the Internet or personal computers with which to gather data and do research. Everybody had to have a connection with one or another brokerage firm to get to the things they needed for the most part. Well, this was fine by me. I had no real responsibilities and would just act as a resource for him, then transact the trades as he directed. At full commission, by the way. No request for any special treatment such as discounts, etc. I was one happy camper at the great good fortune that walk-in brought along with him that day.

Oh yes – one other thing. In addition to that magnificent business card, he had one other piece of paper for me. A check for US $100,000.00 as an opening deposit. That usurped the business card in attractiveness! To a relatively new broker of not quite two full years in production, opening a $100K account with new, investable cash, was a heady experience. So much so that, as I was walking him out, I had him stop